Father’s Day 2022

American Father’s Day is today. Given my own dad is socially inept and awkward, he rarely calls me. I cannot even remember the last time he called me. I’ve stopped calling him directly since it’s always so awkward, and he doesn’t even say hello to me when he answers the phone and realizes it’s me. He’ll usually just say, “Yeah? What do you want?” Does that sound rude? Yes. But to him, that’s just a normal response (but I can only imagine how HE would react if I responded to HIM that way if he were to call). Instead, I’ll send a gift and if it’s running late, I’ll text or email him to let him know, plus a Happy Father’s Day wish.

So I did that today, and he responded right away by saying thanks, and, “Please wish Chris a happy Father’s Day, too.” Interesting. He never messaged to wish me a happy Mother’s Day last month, but he wishes indirectly a happy Father’s Day to his son-in-law? With my dad, everything is always a response, never something he initiates. It always has to be a quid pro quo thing with the other person initiating it, otherwise he will never be the first to do anything. And well, he can’t really wish me a happy mother’s day in response because no one is going to wish him a happy mother’s day.

People always say that you should spend time with your parents now while they’re here because once they’re gone, you’ll have regrets. So occasionally, I wonder if I will have regrets that I did not call to initiate conversation with my dad more often. But when I think about it, I honestly do not believe I will. Who wants to sit in an awkward conversation, especially one that starts as rudely as “What do you want?” The worst part about all this is that my dad never thinks he’s wrong, and my mom always fiercely defends him on the stupidest and most egregious things he’s said and done. I’m grateful that I always had a roof over my head and food on the table to eat, but when it comes to a real, loving, unconditional relationship, that was definitely never there with my dad, and even less so between my dad and his son. It’s partly why Father’s Day as a holiday to me is a pretty meh day.

Changing tables and large bathroom stalls in New York City – a luxury

In the last few months of being out and about with baby on Saturdays, it’s only become increasingly obvious to me how unfriendly New York City is to babies. Given how much real estate here costs, restaurants and businesses tend to have teeny tiny bathrooms with barely enough space for a toilet and a sink, much less a changing table or adequate facilities to change the diaper of a baby. Almost every weekend, I inevitably have to get ready to change our baby on some filthy floor, using our portable changing pad that I would immediately throw in the wash as soon as I would get home. It’s gross, but it’s all I have to work with. A couple weeks ago, Chris was able to change the baby in the restroom at the newly renovated Penn Station atop a real changing table, which was the very first time she had a changing table to get changed on in New York, at least outside our apartment. And today, while at a newly renovated office/communal dining space in Midtown East, not only was I able to comfortably change her on what looked like a brand new changing table in a brand new bathroom, but I was even able to roll the stroller into a huge bathroom stall so that I could pee and not hold her. It was amazing! The stall was so long and wide that the stroller could fit inside the stall with me, with additional space for me to stretch my legs out and pee in comfort. I couldn’t believe it!

How nice it would be if every public restroom in New York City could be like this, just for the sake of families with young children. But alas, that is an unrealistic expectation in a city and a country that is generally hostile towards young families and babies.

Laying out a cup and a glass for the nanny – when it goes awry

When we had a night nurse come support us after Kaia’s birth for three months, she didn’t feel comfortable going through our cupboards to get a glass or plate on her own, so we always left a glass and a mug out for her to use for tea, water, or anything she wanted to drink. Because of this precedent, we also did the same thing for all the trial nannies who came, as well as our current full-time nanny. Apparently, this really upset our nanny on her first day, as she shared this with me yesterday.

“I was really upset on my first day when I came to work for you,” the nanny said to me yesterday. “You left out a cup and glass for me on the counter and said I could use those to drink.”

I was super confused and was waiting for the point. “Wait, so what was wrong with that?” I asked. I really had no idea where she was going with this.

“Because I felt like you were telling me that I could only use that cup and glass, and that I wasn’t allowed to use any other cup or plate or spoon,” she responded. “It was as though you were saying I wasn’t good enough to use the other cups or bowls you had. But then, I realized I had too quickly made that assumption because the next day, you laid out a different cup and glass, and I felt bad for jumping to that conclusion so quickly about you!”

I told her that was completely ridiculous, that I had explained to her that I left them out for her convenience. I even reminded her I told her to use whatever plates or utensils she wanted when she brought lunch and to use our microwave as she needed. But she apparently just tuned out when I pointed out that cup and glass on the first day, which was completely on her.

“You have to understand… I’ve been through a lot as an immigrant to this country,” she said to me. “People have not always treated me nicely, so that’s why I’m quick to judge and make assumptions. I know that’s not always fair, but I do it to protect myself.”

She and her husband had comfortable white-collar jobs in Jamaica. Before coming to the U.S., she was an accountant at a small firm in Montego Bay. She dressed up for work and wore heels. She spent money comfortably and lived well. She called herself a “princess” when living in Jamaica; she didn’t know what it was like to suffer or be looked down upon. Then, she came to the U.S., and everything changed for her. Nothing translated. Getting her papers took forever and was expensive and challenging. She realized that she was never going to become an accountant here and had to quickly find a plan B, and that plan B ended up being nanny work.

“All my nanny families have treated me relatively well, but there are many times when I have wondered what they really think about me,” she lamented. “They look down on me. They don’t think I’m smart or am educated. They don’t consider what my life was before I came here. I actually had a good career in Jamaica. Sometimes, my husband and I wonder if immigrating here really was better for our family.”

It’s a common immigrant story – people who are highly educated in their countries of origin, but that education doesn’t translate well in the U.S., and so immigrants work as cab drivers, nail technicians, or nannies. I feel for her a lot. But I also told her… I don’t honestly think I’ve done anything to make her feel lesser than or unappreciated. If anything, I’ve tried to do more to make her feel welcome and comfortable here. It would be nice, especially now that she’s been with us over a month, for her not to assume the worst of us. We’re all just trying our best to be good people and do the right thing.

Fevers gone, but cuddles needed

Kaia and I both have temperatures that have come down now. We are still monitoring her temperature every two hours to be safe. My temperature is within normal range now, but I still feel hot all the time and sweat like crazy during my first morning pump. This morning, I nearly soaked through my shirt with my own sweat after taking off my pumping bra.

Though Kaia is babbling lots again and happily playing with her toes, she does seem to be a bit more needy. She’s wanted more cuddles from her nanny and from me. She wants more attention even at times when it seems like she’d be fine to roll around on her own. I can tell that she is still unwell, even if her temperature is normal. She’s on the mend, but she hasn’t 100 percent recovered just yet. So we decided to not have her go to the play gym today and to take it easy. The nanny still took her outside to the park for some fresh air, but no crazy baby gymnastics just yet.

We were planning to use this week to transition her from her bassinet into her crib, but it’s on hold now because we needed to monitor her overnight more carefully with her fever, plus I just wasn’t really feeling up to a change given I was feeling ill. No one wants to introduce change into their lives when they’re feeling unwell; that applies to both adults and babies. We struggled to get her to sleep in the crib on her own on Monday night before either of us felt really awful, so we’ll need to wait until we’re both fully healthy again to try again.

A pumping mama’s job never ends, in sickness or in health

Both Kaia and I have had fevers the last two days. I took yesterday and today off from work. I could barely focus, especially with my entire head and face hurting. Even listening to my daily Up First NPR news podcast was challenging. My entire body was aching and feeling heavy. I constantly felt hot, and pumping this morning was causing me to sweat what felt like buckets. When I took the flanges off my breasts after this morning’s pump, the edges were dripping with my own sweat. I was hoping that my sweat didn’t drip into the bottles to taint and dilute my baby’s milk.

When you get sick, everyone tells you to stop what you are doing and to just rest. That becomes harder when you have a baby to take care of. But it’s even harder when you have a baby to take care of, AND you exclusively pump. Granted, our nanny has been here during the day to care for the baby, but no matter what, my pumping job has to continue. If I do pump, I feel exhausted and sweaty, plus it takes away time for me to lie down and actually rest. If I were to stop pumping, not only would that be detrimental to my supply, but I would likely get engorged and experience clogged milk ducts once again. So I can’t stop pumping.

And what I feared would happen has happened. I had read about when pumping moms get sick that their supply starts to drop. On Monday and yesterday, my supply was pretty normal, but today, I lost almost 90ml of breast milk supply when comparing to my last 7-day average. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but to me, that was a LOT. I was still pumping as many times as I normally do, and for the same duration of time. I was probably drinking more fluids than usual since my throat hurt so badly and I was super dry. I think I was eating similarly, but wasn’t 100 percent sure. I’m hoping this drop is temporary, as it seems to be temporary from what I’ve read of most sick pumping moms’ experiences, but you never know until it happens to you. I’m trying not to get too anxious about it since stress also has negative effects on milk supply, but how can I not be concerned when breast milk is how I primarily nourish my baby? Kaia’s been eating less since she also has been under the weather, so it hasn’t impacted her percentages of breast milk vs. formula yet, but I’m still worried.

When your baby gets sick for the first time

Last night was unusual. The baby woke up in the middle of the night moaning and eventually crying. We gave her a frozen teether and some infant Tylenol, and she seemed better. We used a forehead thermometer to check her temperature, and it looked normal. But apparently, that wasn’t very accurate in the end.

The nanny took her to story time at the library and said she was really fussy the whole time. She didn’t want to roll around and do tummy time on the mat as she normally does, so the nanny held her the whole time. She did a couple cat naps in the park, which the nanny said was unusual, and her head felt very warm. When she came back and told me this, I took out the rectal/oral thermometer, which is supposed to have a higher level of accuracy, cleaned it, and stuck it in her rectum for a read. When I pulled it out after it beeped, it was there in plain black and white: 103.6 F.

Oh, crap. My baby has a fever, and it’s high! And damnit, that stupid forehead thermometer is inaccurate and terrible!!

I immediately gave her some infant Tylenol and then called the doctor’s office. The doctor emailed back and suggested a dosage every four hours of infant Tylenol, and if her temperature increased, to switch to infant Motrin. We also kept giving her cold compresses and cold teethers. She seemed much better after just an hour of the Tylenol; she started playing with her toes and babbling again.

I was actually feeling miserable and achy all over since late last night. But once I found out Kaia had a fever, I stopped caring about my own sickness and was laser focused on her getting better. I guess what they say is true: once you become a parent, you stop prioritizing your own health and needs and completely focus on your child’s health and well being. She’s only six months old, and she can’t fend for herself or even communicate. She’s basically helpless.

The nanny told me not to worry, that babies get fevers all the time. I just hope hers continues to subside.

Kaia’s first mango: Alphonso from India

The pediatrician suggested we introduce one solid food for three days, then introduce another solid on top of the first one for the next three days, etc. While all that makes sense when you are trying to get your baby familiar with solids and also ensuring that you are identifying any potential food allergies early, there’s really no hard rule on how many and when to do all these introductions. Some parents mix different solids into the same purees. Those who begin with baby led weaning can add 304 different things on the table in front of baby to see how she explores. So I got a little excited… and also worried about the state of our Alphonso mangoes and how long they would stay good for, so I decided.. what the hell. Let’s just let her try some Alphonso today. We gave her some avocado and then some Alphonso mango.

“You know, you’re supposed to introduce one thing at a time for three days…” the nanny said to me, with a half stern, half mocking look on her face.

“We don’t know how long the Alphonsos will be good for, and so we have a small window!” I said defensively. “Plus, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Have you ever heard of a mango allergy?”

She took to the mango pretty well. She loves grabbing the spoon to feed herself and shove into her mouth. I don’t know who said that baby led weaning was cleaner than pureed baby food because this is definitely messy; she got mango and avocado all over her face, hands, bib, shirt, and pants, plus on the nanny’s hands!

Seeing that she enjoyed the mango, now I can confidently say she is really my daughter. 🙂 We can now always say that her first experience with mango was a legitimate Indian Alphonso mango. This makes me very happy — no offense, Mexican ataulfo mangoes.

First solid food: avocado

Today, we introduced the baby to her first solid food. I took a ripe avocado and mashed about a tablespoon-sized serving into a small cup, loaded it onto one of her silicone baby feeding spoons, and stuck it in front of her face. She looked at it and immediately grasped the spoon handle with her hands, taking it away from me. Then, she stuck the spoon into her mouth. Avocado bits got into her mouth, and she grimaced and made a funny face. She looked like she was chewing for a bit, generating a lot of saliva, and then spat it out. Well, that was a decent first attempt.

When babies get introduced to solids, they will oftentimes play with the food, grab it, throw it, spit it out, put it in their mouth, move it around, and spit it out. Everything she did was normal behavior. This is how babies explore the world around them and “experiment” and learn. We just have to keep trying to introduce her to the same foods a few times, then rotate in new foods to get her exposed to more and more things. I want to do do both purees and baby-led weaning (as scary as that sounds) so that she can learn some independence and also how to handle food and utensils on her own. Each day will be a mini adventure for all of us.

“World facing” and the bittersweetness of milestones

Now that our baby is over 14 pounds and has excellent neck strength, we placed her into the Ergobaby carrier front-facing for the very first time today. “Front facing” in a baby carrier or stroller is also called “world facing.” While world facing, she gets to observe everything around her and make some sense of the world. As expected, she was extremely curious, constantly moving her head back and forth to take everything in.

Reaching six months is a big milestone. She’s strong on her tummy and with her neck. She’s pushing up on her hands and arms, constantly pivoting and getting stronger. She’s rolling over endlessly in the last few days. She’s world facing in her carrier, and we’ve already stopped using the bassinet attachment on her stroller. This weekend, we’re planning to build her crib so she can stop sleeping in the bassinet that she’s quickly growing out of. With rolling, it’s no longer safe to swaddle her, as well, so swaddling, even if just her legs as we’ve been doing since March, is now coming to an end. And tomorrow, I’m planning to feed her the first solid food she’ll ever have. It’s a lot of big changes all at once, which makes me a little emotional to think she’s growing so quickly, perhaps too quickly, but it makes me feel even more strongly about wanting to be there with her for all these amazing moments to watch her grow and develop into an independent human. Her crib is too big to have in our bedroom even temporarily, so she’ll soon be sleeping in a separate room from us. That makes me sad and a little nervous, but gradually, we just have to let these things go to allow our babies to grow and flourish on their own.

And on top of all that, I promised myself that I’d wean off my fifth pump and go down to four pumps per day once she hit six months of age, so I’ve been gradually pushing my 3pm pump back this week so that I’d officially be down to four pumps by this Monday. Weaning from pumping, even though it’s gradual, also makes me a little sad, as crazy as that sounds given how all consuming and emotionally, mentally draining my pumping schedule was. One day in the near future, I’ll be completely weaned from breastfeeding, and that will have its own set of emotional ups and downs in itself. My body has been able to nourish her so well for this long. And soon, she won’t need my body to nourish her anymore. It is a very bittersweet thought. I feel proud of what I have been able to provide for her, but sad that it’s gradually ending. This is all part of life, I keep telling myself. I have to let her be free to grow and gradually become more and more independent. Chris makes fun of me and says I’d want her sleeping in my bed when she’s 21, but well, that’s just not the case. I genuinely don’t think dads can quite understand this journey because their bodies don’t create or carry or give birth to babies. Their bodies also aren’t capable of feeding babies. This is a uniquely female thing. And in my case, given all I went through with fertility treatments and the insanity and intensity of IVF, it makes all these milestones felt even more deeply; this easily could never have happened for me. And because of that, I am even more grateful for all these moments, all these milestones, knowing my baby is happy and healthy and developing well. These are the emotional attachments that mothers can have to their children. They were once a part of our body. Then, they weren’t. Then, they needed us for sustenance and food. And then, they suddenly don’t. It’s a very emotional journey, one that I would think most mothers hold close to their hearts.

Six month birthday

It is a very happy 6-month birthday for baby Kaia today. The nanny and I took her to the doctor’s for her 6-month routine check up to discover that she is now 14 lb, 13 oz. (6.72 kg). Her weight is in the 25th percentile, which is a huge jump up since at her 4-month appointment, she was only in the 5th percentile; her length/height is in the 55th percentile, and her head circumference is in the 91st percentile! I felt so proud. She’s growing healthily and beautifully, and the doctor was very, very impressed. Unfortunately, she had to have more vaccines today, so she was screaming and having a lot of tears at the doctor’s appointment. After some tears and some time in the stroller, she passed out and eventually started babbling again.

We got the okay to start solids. Her sit-up stance could be stronger, but the doctor said with a harness in her high chair that she should be okay. I’m still unsure if this is just a blanket recommendation just based on her age rather than where she is developmentally, as she isn’t sitting well on her own yet. While I’m excited for the baby to have food outside of breast milk and formula, I am a little nervous about the potential for choking. I want to do a combination of purees and baby led weaning, but maybe for my own peace of mind, we should probably begin with a few purees. I want to do green vegetables first before fruit, since babies naturally have a preference for sweet. So it would be good to introduce her to savory, bitter or green veggies first. The doctor’s suggestion was to start with veggies, fruit, and porridges (like oats) first, then around the 7-8 month mark, begin proteins like chicken, fish, etc. This is all going to change the smell (ugh) and consistency of her bowel movements, but this is the beginning of her becoming a tiny adult in the world. I already took out her teether pop so that I can start filling it with frozen purees and breast milk. It’s going to be an exciting adventure just watching her eat to see what she likes and doesn’t like.